BLOGCountry Mill Goes to Court

By Sarah Kramer Posted on: | September 12, 2017

Fall is coming.

For Steve and Bridget Tennes, that means they get to host some fall favorites at their family farm in Charlotte, Michigan, where they grow apples, blueberries, peaches, cherries, and pumpkins. They open Country Mill Farms to the community for u-pick apples and blueberries, wagon rides, a corn maze, a pumpkin patch, and cider and donuts – and all are welcome.

But earlier this year, that same welcome was not extended to the Tennes family. They were told Country Mill could not participate in the East Lansing Farmer’s Market because of their personal religious beliefs and the fact that they shared those beliefs on social media.

That’s why Alliance Defending Freedom will be representing them before a court tomorrow, asking that their freedom to live and work peacefully according to their faith is upheld – and not used to exclude them from the public square.

All the Tennes family had done was honestly answer a question on Facebook about their religious beliefs. They politely explained their belief that marriage is between one man and one woman.

And that was that.

When the East Lansing Farmer’s Market saw the post, however, they pressured Country Mill not to attend the next farmer’s market, saying protestors might show up because of the post. But when the Tennes family showed up anyway, no protestors greeted them.

East Lansing then tried to exclude Country Mill by not inviting them back to the 2017 farmer’s market – the first time in six years that the Tennes family had not been invited. When they filled out an application, the city informed them that Country Mill was in violation of a new policy – created simply to shut the Tennes family out of the farmer’s market for their religious beliefs.

A couple things to note:

  • The Tennes family doesn’t discriminate against anyone and wants to sell their produce to everyone at the farmer’s market, but East Lansing won’t let them.
  • It’s also worth noting that Charlotte, Michigan is outside of East Lansing’s jurisdiction – 22 miles outside, to be exact.

This amounts to a major overreach by the East Lansing government, and it is why we are defending the Tennes family in court.

“People of faith, like the Tennes family, should be free to live and work according to their deeply held beliefs without fear of losing their livelihood,” said ADF Legal Counsel Kate Anderson. “If the government can shut down a family farmer just because of the religious views he expresses on Facebook—by denying him a license to do business and serve fresh produce to all people—then no American is free.”


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Sarah Kramer

Digital Content Specialist

Sarah worked as an investigative reporter before joining the Alliance Defending Freedom team.

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